Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Effective 01 April 2014, the City of Cape Town are introducing a digital plans submission system.
Well it's now the 1st April - and - not an April fools joke, I submitted my first plans this morning. Following is my experience of the actual process at the Blaauwberg District plans office.

Per councils requirement, plans should be submitted prepped in landscape format, with a 150 a 100 clear box for stamping space, and saved preferably as PDF/E format, but PDF/A is acceptable. Documents should all be PDF/A.

PDF/A is a standard developed for the legal profession and provides for long term archiving.

All plans and doc's should be saved on a flash drive and handed in, for the time being, with a full paper backup set. Flash drive in an A5 envelope with an identifying label available from council stuck on the front. I included an index of what I had provided.
Hope this helps save you some time.

01 04 2014

I was first in at Blaauwberg this morning, with three building plans and one departure application to submit. All done and dusted and back in the office by 09.30 J


I took in all doc’s both on a flash drive, all saved as PDF/A and a full paper set, with an index listing the docs attached, again both on paper and on flash.

I scanned my plans as pdf/a at postnet to include on flashdrive with all the hoa stamps etc already on.

I scanned all the hand completed and signed forms at my desktop scanner as pdf’s and then saved to the flash drive via adobe acrobat as pdf/a. My scanner doesn’t scan direct to pdf/a .

I kept a copy of all of the application as saved on the flashdrive in a client directory in my pc. I intend to add to this whatever comes back from council including the approved plan and keep this file for ever. ( proper back up systems become ever more important) My directory therefore should be complete at the end of the day, I can clean up and reuse the flash.


Process was.

1.       To plans examiners counter.

Theo was sitting there taking in applications, as was Clifford, Derrick, Keith all wanting to see how it was going to go.

There is a registration form to complete,  fill in what you can on the blue side including the summary of scope of work at the bottom. ( and m2’s) this for s/fee calculation. 

A plans examiner will cast his eye over your plan for obvious errors and complete a tick sheet checklist. I didn’t have engineer appointment forms for some structural stuff, but was marked to follow.

Theo will record on the computer. Take out full application including the registration form and tick sheet, and :

2.       To Heritage, they examined and stamped the paper copy as usual

3.       To LUMS, again they examined and stamped the paper copy as usual


They are working on a clean plans submission system, you are only going to be able to go from one step to the next if the plan is clean.


4.       The town planner completed the green and yellow side of the registration form, and I took to bdm counter, who record the receipt of the application.

5.       They cannot at this point give scrutiny fees straight away, but this is apparently a system glitch and will be fixed shortly, so I brought my applications away pending receipt of an e mail for the fees, hopefully later today. I should then be able to pay by eft, or at pick n pay / checkers etc by card.

They kept the registration form and the tick sheet check list.

6.       Tomorrow then, I would drop in the pre checked applications with proof of payment at the express counter. But it’s a simple hand in, so may well just send Matthew J


The plan, re scrutiny fees, once the glitch is fixed, will be that they will be able to give you a fee invoice on the spot, and that there will be a pc available to make an eft payment in their office.


There was a guy I don’t know there who is apparently the DAMS expert from town, floating around helping as needed.


The departure application was similar, first to Plans examiners cubbyhole who cast their eye over it, and note on the reg form that they cannot accept pending departure approval.

Heritage stamp, saves this step later, check over by town planner, fills in part of the yellow and green side of the registration form. Log in at the planning enquiry desk who record receipt, keep the registration form and tick sheet check list, e mail departure fee to follow and payment hand in as per the building plan. 

The system is obviously not up and running fully yet. They can’t yet stamp electronic copies digitally for instance and they only actually opened one of my flash drives out of four, just out of curiosity to see how I had set it up. Otherwise they didn’t look at any of the electronic documents.

But I am confident they will get there, a little bit of patience at this stage while everybody works out what’s happening and how the departments integrate, and in 3 months this will be easy . Whether it will make any difference to the time it takes to process applications is yet to be seen.

As far as I can see they will still be examining paper copies, stamping the approval and scanning the approved plan with the stamps ( heritage / lums / bdm ) onto your flash drive.
NB, I think that council – like us, are working this out as they go along, and as they encounter issues glitches and gremlins, they will probably tweak the process. Facilities that are not available yet will come on line, such as fee calculation/invoicing etc. and that will help.
Patience will be the key as we go forward. Effectively what is happening is they are integrating the systems – part paper / manual with digital being loaded back office from the paper provided,  and will work towards a full digital submission system, towards the middle / end of the year.
One step at a time at the moment, in 12 months time we will be wondering how we ever handled a submission any other way ! 
Last thing, the process described below is specifically Blaauwberg, the registration form for instance is I think an in house Blaauwberg thing. You will probably find variations between the submission centres, although hopefully they will at some stage talk to each other and adopt the best of the best for a standard method. ( Clifford / Janine ?? ) It’s always frustrating to think you have got something sussed, and then you rock up at South Pen or Somerset West and find they do it different and you are missing something – and have to go back tomorrow.


“Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose”  - it’s French - google it  J


There is nothing scary in this process. ( Yet )